5 things I’ve learned about fundraising – and myself.

Hi.

How are you?

It’s been a while.

As some of you know, I’ve taken a long hiatus from this blog; around 6 months. It was starting to feel like a chore and the posts were feeling a bit uninspired, so I took a break – for 3 reasons.

  1. I didn’t want the blog to go to s*&t only for me to never return.
  2. I wanted to throw myself even more into the job for which I’m actually employed (at Blakely).
  3. I needed a break.

But recently – for the past month or so – I’ve had an itch. Incidentally – but not ironically – it is the busiest time of year for fundraisers…when it rains, it pours.

I think the itch was particularly itchy about a month ago when I celebrated my 2-year anniversary at Blakely. I can’t believe that the time has gone so fast; it feels like only yesterday I made this bold move for my career.

And yet I’ve learned and grown so much, and so I’m inspired to take a moment to reflect on…

5 things I’ve learned about fundraising – and myself.

CREATIVE COUNTS. Yes, you have to segment your data well and make the right ask to the right people. But without creative that catches the eye and stands out in the mailbox, inbox, Facebook newsfeed, etc., your organization doesn’t stand a chance. And this isn’t just about good design or nice stock for your OE (outer envelope), it’s about a compelling story, too. No matter what channel you’re telling your story on – mail, email, a few lines on a Facebook ad, video, etc. – it needs to be emotional, compelling, and motivating.

PROPOSITIONS PUSH. But those compelling stories? They need to tie back to the need. The need is expressed through the fundraising proposition: why do we need the donor’s support now? What’s the problem? What’s the solution? How can the donor be part of it? What’s their role in all of it? What will their impact be? How will they know they’ve made a difference? The story moves donors emotionally, but the proposition can trigger that rational part of the brain, which can be critical in the decision to give.

INTEGRATION INSPIRES. Direct mail isn’t dead, but it doesn’t stand alone. Our donors are engaging with us in many ways – they’re getting our mail and emails, maybe they’re seeing our videos on TV, YouTube, or Facebook, they’re searching us on Google, they’re going to our website… they’re everywhere! So we’ve gotta be everywhere, too. But we need to be integrated. If they’re seeing us everywhere, we want what they see to have a common thread; they saw our mail and forget about it. Then we came up on their Facebook feed and they scrolled on. Then, it’s nearly December 31st and they want to make their year-end gift, so they Google us. Is what they see connected to what they saw? Ideally it is so they feel seen and heard and what originally caught their attention is seen through to the end. Give thought to the full journey; it matters.

PASSION PERSEVERES. But none of these learnings matter if you don’t love what you do. I love my work and the company I work for, but things get crazy and stressful. I have weeks where I feel on the ball, and weeks where I feel like I’m dropping balls, and then I have days like a month ago when I was on a video shoot for a client and we interviewed a family impacted by the organization’s care and donors’ support. The gratitude was so palpable and I thought: “This. This is why I do this.”

CULTURE CUTS. Unfortunately passion doesn’t persevere through everything. I’ve worked in fundraising for almost 11 (!!!) years now. I’ve worked in super inspiring environments, and mediocre ones. My passion hasn’t been able to lift me out of the mediocre ones. Now I work for a company where culture is our competitive advantage. My booming voice is celebrated (mostly), not quieted. My habit of distracting all colleagues from 2:00-3:00 every day (my worst time for productivity) is tolerated, not discouraged. My ideas are always welcomed. My humour is encouraged. My stress is worked through. My hard times are comforted. I – as an individual – am fully valued. So on the hard days, I feel I am working with people who love me, and so I can always make it through.

It’s been an awesome 2 years at Blakely, and an amazing 11 years in fundraising, and I am ready to get back to this blog.

See you soon!

~~

Written by Maeve Strathy

20150326_Strathy_Maeve_02
Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in fundraising for eleven years.
Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email

Best Practice is Test Practice

Let me set the scene: You’ve just attended a conference and your head is buzzing with new ideas. But there’s one in particular that you have to try! You know your organization’s donors will love it and really respond to it. So you go to your decision-maker and put the idea in front of her. She immediately shuts it down. “Our donors won’t respond to that!”, she says. You, deflated, go back to doing the same old, same old.

Here’s another scene: You just got an email from your favourite charity (but not the one you work at). It has a lot of copy, yet you’re captivated the whole time you read it. You get to the end and can’t help but make a gift. But there was so much copy! That’s not best practice! And yet… you gave. So you start thinking about the charity where you work. You only write short copy emails there; it’s “best practice”, after all. You consider making your next email a bit longer, but the digital experts in your office might say no. And what if it sacrifices revenue?

If you’re like most fundraisers, one or both of these situations is familiar to you. Revenue is precious, and if it’s coming in, then there’s not a revenue problem. If there’s no problem, there’s nothing to fix. If there’s nothing to fix, why try something new?! New ideas have no place in your charity.

But there is a problem! Status quo is a problem. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but at some point things will plateau if they haven’t already.

And chances are, the most senior people at your charity don’t want to see revenue go flat. They want to see it go up.

But how?

We use a quote from Albert Einstein a lot in our office to shake us out of status quo:

So how do you stop being insane? How do you challenge your known best practice without sacrificing (too much) revenue?

You test.

In my opinion, we don’t do nearly enough testing in fundraising. We’re so risk-averse – and understandably so. We don’t have money to just play around with, and for most charities it would be irresponsible to “play” with our money anyway.

But there’s so much to learn by trying new things!

Testing is the way. Testing is the way to convince your organization’s decision-maker to try something new. You go status quo with one group of donors – maybe send them the year-end package you always have. And then with another group of donors – send them the new package! Or the long-copy email you’ve been wanting to try!

6 Tips for Testing:

  1. Test ONE thing. To have a true test, you have to be able to identify the one thing that made one “package” more successful than the other.
  2. You don’t have to do a 50/50 test, you can do 75/25 or whatever you want! But – for the test to be conclusive, you want to have a minimum of 100 responses.
  3. Don’t just test for testing’s sake. If the element that you’re testing “wins”, the assumption is that you’ll roll out that element in future efforts, so it needs to have value.
  4. Digital testing is the same as testing through mail. You’re still testing one thing.
  5. You can test more than just creative/copy elements. You can also test data elements. What would happen if you mailed 50% of your inactive donors a totally different letter than other donors? Would they perform better? Or what if you tested your usual ask grid ($50 $100 $250) against something a bit more aggressive? Would that result in a higher average gift?
  6. Sometimes – even without testing it – it’s time for your longstanding control package to go. (Note: Your “control” is the package that keeps on winning against test packages.) Just because it’s “winning” doesn’t mean it should still go out in the mail. Sometimes it’s time for something new, with or without testing.

(Shout-outs to my awesome colleagues Laura & Sara for sharing their best testing tips!)

Good luck, and happy testing!

~~

Sign up for my email list and get a FREE E-BOOK on mid-level donors!

Written by Maeve Strathy

20150326_Strathy_Maeve_02
Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in fundraising for ten years. Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email

What stories have we been telling our mid-level donors?

what-stories-have-we-been-telling-our-mid-level-donors

In a few hours, I’m jumping on a plane to Chicago to speak at the Nonprofit Storytelling Conference and I couldn’t be more excited!

This conference has had such a positive buzz about it since it started 3 years ago, and I can’t wait to be part of it.

What will I be talking about? Surprise, surprise: mid-level donors. You know they’re my favourite kind of donor, and I can’t wait to share some thoughts on them with the crowd.

My presentation is called “Telling mid-level donors the stories they want to hear”. I don’t want to give away all my secrets, but I will say this: if I’m saying that we need to tell mid-level donors the stories they want to hear, am I suggesting that we haven’t been?

The answer is yes.

So what stories have we been telling our mid-level donors that haven’t been working?

#1 – The brand story

I spoke about this in my post on “The Field of Dreams Myth”, as I call it. A lot of organizations have the instinct to brand their mid-level giving program – give it a name, a logo, and letterhead. This tactic is not off-base, but it’s not enough. (And all too often, it’s based on internal organizational needs vs. the needs of the donor.)

#2 – The variable paragraph story

Variable paragraphs are best practice in direct mail (and email, to a degree) and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with them. But, if we expect to inspire mid-level donors to step it up just because we call them “generous” in a variable paragraph, then we’re going to be sorely disappointed. We need to do more.

#3 – The closed envelope story

One of the most commonly used tactics is to send mid-level donors exactly what your regular donors get, but with a distinction – rather than a #10 envelope with your usual postage indicia, mid-level donors get their letter in a closed envelope with a real, live stamp on the front! Don’t get me wrong – it’s a classy touch, makes the package stand out in a pile of bills… but is this going to inspire donors to give at a new level? No.

#4 – An insert story (if they’re lucky)

Finally, the most we might do for mid-level donors to try to distinguish their experience from everyone else is to insert something extra into their package – maybe it’s a lift note from someone meaningful to them/the package, maybe it’s a small insert that expands on the funding priorities… And this comes from a great insight about mid-level donors wanting more from the organizations they support. More content! More behind-the-scenes info! More! An insert will take you part of the way, but on its own will it do enough? No.

The stories aren’t working. 

I promise you I’ll talk to you about what stories will work in a few weeks.

Until then – what are you seeing that doesn’t work? What does?

Let me know in the comments!

~~

Sign up for my email list and get a FREE E-BOOK on mid-level donors!

Written by Maeve Strathy

20150326_Strathy_Maeve_02
Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in fundraising for ten years. Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email

#donorlove has its limits

donorlove-has-its-limits

There. I said it.

You are probably not happy I said it – and I know my besties in the fundraising world won’t be – but I had to.

You know how much I believe in #donorlove. I think it’s such an important lens for us to look through when it comes to our fundraising practices. Putting the donor at the centre of what we do is critical in our work.

But #donorlove is not the be-all and end-all of successful or right fundraising.

Let me backtrack.

You probably know that Rory Green – a.k.a. Fundraiser Grrl – is one of my best friends. So you can imagine that when I get a fundraising appeal in the mail for one of my clients that I’m really excited about that Rory is the one I want to tell first.

So I did just that the other day. I took a photo of three envelopes for a client’s campaign (one control, two test packages) and sent it over to Rory for us to gush over together. The first thing Rory said was –

“It doesn’t say the word ‘you‘ on any of those envelopes.”

If you’ve learned anything about #donorlove, it’s the power of the word “YOU”. And Rory is right in that the word “you” is an incredibly important thing to look out for in fundraising. Traditionally organizations have spent far too much time in their fundraising talking about what “they” – the organization – do, rather than about what “you” – the donor – do. If we want to inspire – and even more importantly, retain – donors, we must celebrate them. We must make the donor the hero.

I am not questioning the importance of this type of #donorlove principle. Or any #donorlove principle.

What I’m questioning is the interpretation and application of these principles.

We need to acknowledge that there’s more in successful fundraising than #donorlove.

Let’s think about the donor journey. Why does the donor give to our organization in the first place?

Because they’re asked, yes.

But donors give because they believe in the need our organization meets, and that our organization needs their financial support to meet that need.

The vast majority of donors out there do not give because they need more love in their life. 

Now don’t get me wrong – some donors actually do give to create a relationship and a connection between them and an organization. We often see this among our older donors, and this is an important donor need to acknowledge and to meet. #Donorlove is especially needed here.

#Donorlove is also needed to retain donors. There are a lot of great charities competing for donors, and if your gift to one of them goes unacknowledged for an unforgivably long time, I don’t blame you for saying, “No more, charity! No more gifts for you! I’m giving all my money to the charity that treats me right!”

But speaking of a lot of charities competing, let’s talk about acquisition.

And let me start by saying the dirtiest word there is in #donorlove:

PREMIUM

That’s right. I’m talking about something included in a mail pack beyond a letter and maybe an insert. Maybe it’s a bookmark, maybe it’s holiday cards, maybe it’s a luggage tag.

If you believe in nothing but #donorlove, you’re not having this. Because you believe that donors just want to know they matter.

But if we go back to why donors give, then we’re talking about the fact that donors give because we need their support to do what we do. And so donors want us to do what it takes to get the funding that helps us do what we do.

And unfortunately – in this saturated marketplace, with this competition – we sometimes require premiums to get the package opened and the responses we need to bring in the new donors that we need.

No – I agree that it’s not ideal. And I really agree that it can create a transactional relationship that we need to work extra hard to change once the donor first gives to us.

But we don’t live in an ideal world. We work hard to make the premium at least mission-based, and we can make strategic decisions about what the premium is and test which ones lead to a longer-term relationship between the new donor and the charity. We also work to choose a premium that’s less costly so that we’re not bringing donors in on some kind of ridiculous trinket, but this is our reality.

Does it align with the sometimes rigid principles of #donorlove?! NO.

But does it align with the principle of getting as much funding as we can to meet the need that our donors care about?! YES.

So what’s my moral here? Walk the tightrope of #donorlove, my fundraiser friends. Don’t let your principles cripple you, but never let the donor out of your sight.

~~

Sign up for my email list and get a FREE E-BOOK on mid-level donors!

Written by Maeve Strathy

20150326_Strathy_Maeve_02
Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in fundraising for over nine years. Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email

What does your charity have in common with Louis Vuitton?

What does your charity have in common with Louis Vuitton-

Imagine this: it’s pay day.

You pay your bills, you set aside money for groceries, you put a little money away in savings, and you generally make sure all your needs are met.

If you’re fortunate enough to be able to do that, and even more fortunate that you have money leftover, then you might think to yourself: what else can I do with my money?

Maybe there’s some work to do on your house. Maybe you want to go out for a really nice dinner. Maybe you love purses and you’ve been saving up for a designer bag.

Or maybe… maybe could you consider giving to a charity?

This is the noise we’re trying to cut through, folks!

This post was inspired by a client the other day, who compared charities to luxury brands. Obviously people have many views about charities and the importance of giving, but my client was right; for many, giving to charity is a “nice to have”. It’s one of the potential ways you can spend that extra money that you’re lucky enough to have.

But there’s a lot of noise! There are flashy, highly-produced car commercials. There are glossy pages in magazines with beautiful people holding beautiful bags. There are a lot of temptations, and charities can’t afford to get their ads everywhere that a luxury brand is advertised.

Now I know this isn’t the way we need to think of all donors, especially current ones. Obviously the work we do is more important than the noise we make, and a lot of donors are so committed to us, our mission matters to them, that a Louis Vuitton bag couldn’t tempt them away from us.

But when we think of the world beyond that, and the people that might be interested in giving to our cause that aren’t right now, we need to think about what “the market” is saturated with. Not only are we competing against luxury brands, but we’re competing against other charities, and the competition can be fierce.

Let this be the reason you take a risk. Let this move you to try something you’ve been wanting to but haven’t made a strong enough business case to your boss yet. Think about a digital media buy. Think about a more creative envelope with your next acquisition mailing. Think about trying something new!

Because the charity next door is doing it… and Louis Vuitton definitely is.

~~

Sign up for my email list and get a FREE E-BOOK on mid-level donors!

Written by Maeve Strathy

20150326_Strathy_Maeve_02
Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in fundraising for over nine years. Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email

4 tips to survive the year-end fundraising extravaganza

pace yourself. (6)

OK – Why am I talking about year-end? It’s August!

Well because that’s how our weird world of fundraising works… at least for direct response.

I started presenting holiday campaign ideas to my clients back in July.

Literally Christmas in July. 

That’s what makes the world of direct response marketing agencies extra weird. Because of the lead time needed to do our work, we are generally thinking about campaigns three months in advance of when they drop.

Disadvantage for you, the fundraiser? I may be talking about it to you too early. Fair enough.

Advantage for you? Since I’m already in it, I can share some tips with you on how to survive it.

Here they are:

pace yourself.#1 – PACE YOURSELF — Don’t look at your solicitation schedule for September to December and start pulling your hair out! Take it one campaign at a time. Lay out your critical paths. Get the important approval dates in your calendar. This time of year is a marathon, not a sprint. Don’t lose your mind in one go, and don’t forget to hydrate.

pace yourself. (1)

#2 – THINK ABOUT THE DONOR — Don’t lose sight of #donorlove when there are dollar signs in your eyes (because let’s face it – this is the time of year when the revenue pours in more than any other). When you’re looking at the potential creative for your holiday campaign, remind yourself “I am not my donors”. Think about what donors have responded to in the past. What’s inspired them? What’s filled them with the warm, fuzzy feelings of the giving season and moved them to impact your organization when there are so many other non-profits clamouring for their attention? Deliver that. I’m not saying don’t be innovative or try something new, but don’t do it for your sake. Do it for the donors.

pace yourself. (2)

#3 – SELF-CARE — I know we all give the idea of self-care lip service, but seriously. It’s August and I’m already feeling the first bit of burn-out. You need to check in with yourself and make sure you’re giving yourself what you need. Are you getting enough sleep? Are you putting good stuff into your body (and I don’t mean wine and coffee, although there’s a time and place for that, too). Are you finding time to be active? A 30-minute walk (ideally outside) would do you a lot of good. Are you taking time to do things that bring you joy? Cooking? Reading? A favourite TV show? A bath! I know we can’t spare as much time as usual for ourselves amidst all the work, but maybe carve out… an hour a day? Two hours? For you! Because if you aren’t happy and healthy, it’s going to be a much longer season.

pace yourself. (3)

#4 – KEEP YOUR EYE ON THE PRIZE — #DonorLove is absolutely crucial to what we do. But let’s admit it: to allow our amazing organizations to do their amazing work, we need funding. And the year-end time period brings in the majority of our funding for the year, so that’s a huge driver of why we work so hard and have so much output at this time. When you’re tearing your hair out and wondering why you do this, look at last year’s results from September-December. Calculate what percentage of the total year’s revenue it was. Write that percentage or dollar amount on a post-it and let it motivate you when the sheer love of the work doesn’t do it. That impact is worth hustling for.

Good luck!

~~

Sign up for my email list and get a FREE E-BOOK on mid-level donors!

Written by Maeve Strathy

20150326_Strathy_Maeve_02
Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in fundraising for over nine years. Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email

6 important things I’ve learned at my job

#1 - The importance of being reactive. (4)

Guess what?!

Today marks exactly ONE YEAR since I started my job at Blakely.

Wow… time flies when you’re having fun! And it has been fun! 365 days of getting out of my comfort zone, learning, being challenged, feeling intellectually stimulated, meeting new people, feeling inspired by new causes, travelling (40/365 days), laughing, stressing, and getting a whole lot of &*#! done!

If you’ve been reading my blog a while, you can probably guess how I’d like to celebrate this occasion.

With a list!

So here it is:

6 important things I’ve learned at my job

#1 - The importance of being reactive.

Gone are the days of leaving a meeting with an action item and getting to it eventually. The pace of work at Blakely means 9 times out of 10, when you have something to do, you have to do it NOW. It’s a great lesson in prioritizing, because when there’s 9 things to do NOW, which one do you start with? I still don’t know if I’m always making the right choices, but I’m learning and getting better. What else could you want from a job?

#1 - The importance of being reactive. (1)

Unfortunately for me (and the donors!), I’ve never worked somewhere where the creative aspect of fundraising is a big focus. Maybe the creative writing, but not the art. That is one of the most fun parts of Blakely: the creative. Part of my job when executing on a campaign for a client is to brief the creative team. I might tell them what we need out of an outer envelope, which packages have done really well in the past and my thoughts on why… and then the magic happens. The artists go off and a little while later come back and the strategy has come to life! It is so cool to see, and I find the process – and especially the output – so inspiring! The truth is, the thing we want donors to do is actually open the envelope. It takes good creative to do that.

#1 - The importance of being reactive. (2)

Another thing I’d never really been focused on before was the second gift. That is a HUGE part of our strategy at Blakely. Inspiring a donor to give is a start, but inspiring them to give again? That’s where the work really begins. You have to thank them – fast and furious. You have to give them a good sense of their impact right away. And when you do ask, it’s gotta be for the right thing in the right way at the right time. It’s an art, and I love learning about it.

#1 - The importance of being reactive. (3)

With the reactive nature of my job, it’s hard to find time to do anything, but it’s really hard to find time to think. I mean really think. I can get a slide deck together to present a campaign plan to a client, no problem! But how much thought has gone into it? How many colleagues have I spoken to in advance, to run ideas past them and ask them questions? How much time have I spent reviewing past campaigns? Looking at results? Figuring out what works, what doesn’t, what we might test this time? It’s critical to make time for this important thinking work. When done right, a campaign is stronger than ever!

#1 - The importance of being reactive. (5)

I’ve always enjoyed data and analysis, but it’s not my strength, so that’s been a big learning curve for me. Let’s say I’m populating a slide deck with some results… I can make some commentary on what happened, but my real role is to say why it happened. That’s not so easy. But I’ve learned to stop myself more often and ask why? Is it because the mailing went late this year? Was the creative too subtle for the donors? Was there not enough time between the last mailing and this one? It’s about really getting under the results, and it’s fascinating!

#1 - The importance of being reactive. (6)

It feels really good to be valued, and I feel valued at Blakely. The work I do with this blog is valued. It means I’m part of the online fundraising conversation; sharing ideas, connecting with guest bloggers, and constantly learning. My activity on Twitter is valued, really for the same reasons. I’m connecting with fundraisers worldwide; learning from them, and sharing my own thoughts. The networking I do is valued. I meet people and create relationships in this wonderful weird world of fundraisers. And my voice is valued. I am brought to the table to talk about things in my scope of work and far outside of it, just to offer my opinion. Sure, there’s lots of business benefits to all this, but it’s also about the value the company – and the people in it – place on learning, knowledge-sharing, collaborating, and more.

Needless to say, I’m a very happy fundraiser right now!

~~

Sign up for my email list and get a FREE E-BOOK on mid-level donors!

Written by Maeve Strathy

20150326_Strathy_Maeve_02
Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in fundraising for over nine years. Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email

DIRECT MAIL IS NOT DEAD…

Direct Mail

It just doesn’t stand alone anymore.

 

When I tell people what I do – direct response marketing for non-profits – the easiest reference point to use is direct mail.

“You know those letters you get from charities that ask you for money? I put those together.”

The reaction I often get is shock that there’s still a business for that.

“People still give through the mail?!” people say, incredulous.

But those of us in fundraising know (I hope!) that direct mail continues to be the base of our Annual Giving programs.

Is it dead? Definitely not. Is it dying? Nope. BUT, it cannot stand alone.

So what does that mean?

It means that successful direct response fundraising programs are multi-channel and integrated. You communicate with your donors – and prospective donors – by mail, email, and phone. You invest in media buys, engaging donors on Facebook and Google. You create inspiring video content. You develop sophisticated landing pages.

The list goes on…

Look, I know your budgets are limited. But, direct mail will definitely seem to be dying if you’re relying on it as your only channel. You need to go where your donors are… and they’re everywhere.

So that’s multi-channel. But don’t think if you’re using different messages across different channels that you’re gonna have major success! It needs to be integrated.

You know what happens when it is? You know what happens when you use consistent creative and messaging across all channels?

You drive more giving.

If somebody sends your organization a cheque in the mail, it could be because your appeal was emotional and inspiring.

AND/OR it could be because they saw your video content before a YouTube video.

AND/OR they saw an ad on Facebook and it reminded them about that envelope from there favourite charity on their desk.

Integrated multi-channel fundraising.

HA! No, direct mail is definitely not dead.

~~

Sign up for my email list and get a FREE E-BOOK on mid-level donors!

Written by Maeve Strathy

20150326_Strathy_Maeve_02
Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in fundraising for over nine years. Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email

10 things to consider when writing your next direct mail appeal

10 things to consider when writing your next direct mail appeal

It may seem crazy sometimes, but mail continues to be the best way to engage donors or potential donors in our work.

Direct mail is both and art and a science… but it’s not rocket science.

Here are my 10 categories to consider in advance of your next DM appeal.

10 things to consider when writing your next direct mail appeal (1)

I know it’s boring and uninspiring, but let’s be realistic: the amount of money we have available to us drives what we do. If we think about what we’ve budgeted for before we get going on a campaign, we can allow the budget to guide us rather than limit us. It can help us determine how many people to mail, how many components to include in the mailing, what kind of paper to use, etc. If we realize that we need to increase the budget to achieve our goals, that’s fine, but think about the budget before anything else… and it won’t become our enemy.

10 things to consider when writing your next direct mail appeal (2)

Next (somewhat driven by cost): Who are you mailing? Existing donors? Prospective donors? Females? Males? Both? How many people? Are they in your charity’s geographical area, or outside of it? Are they really engaged and generous donors? Donors who are long-lapsed? Your audience drives so much of what you’re going to do in any given mailing, so let this be your second consideration.

10 things to consider when writing your next direct mail appeal (3)

Obviously the main goal for any campaign is to raise money, but we also have the opportunity to get insights beyond the dollars we bring in. Before you start really planning for your mailing, determine whether you have the budget to do some testing. If you do, think about what you want to find out: will a more aggressive dollar amount ask generate more revenue or will it freak donors out? Does referencing your donors’ location in the world lift response, or does it make little difference? Think about it. The opportunities are endless, and it’s worth using some of your budget for.

10 things to consider when writing your next direct mail appeal (4)

OK, onto creative. Creative is somewhat dependent on the story you decide to tell in your mailing, but it’s also determined by budget, audience, and testing opportunities. What do you have the money to do creatively? Can you use something more exciting than a #10 envelope? Can you include some full-colour photos in the letter, or an insert to expand on the ask? Or – let’s go crazy – can you create a video to accompany the mailing? The creative needs to be aligned to other things in the package, but it’s better to get a sense of your parameters early on.

10 things to consider when writing your next direct mail appeal (5)

I know this seems crazy, but only now is it really key to determine what you’re asking for. You may know already; it may be unrestricted funds like it always is. Or you might have a really urgent ask to make. However your process works, it’s now time to finalize the key priority you want to inspire the donor with, and you also want to figure out the ask amounts and how they might be based on the segment the donor falls into, their past giving, etc.

10 things to consider when writing your next direct mail appeal (6)

These things aren’t really in a critical order, but if you haven’t figured it out already, it’s time to determine your story. The more personal, the better. If you can tell an individual’s story, that’s ideal. This story should be determined by some of the decisions you’ve already made; maybe it’s based on the audience you’re mailing. Maybe it’s part of a test. Maybe it lends itself to some creative you want to work with. Or maybe it ties perfectly to the ask you want to make. Whatever it is, make it inspiring!

10 things to consider when writing your next direct mail appeal (7)

Just like we have to think critically about who sits across from the donor in a 7-figure major gift ask, we have to think about who “signs” a fundraising appeal. Who’s appropriate? Who matters to the donor? Whose voice do we want to use? We know that people are more motivated to give when someone they know asks, so we have to think about that just as much in direct mail. Have you always used your CEO? Great! Could it be worth testing another signatory? Probably! Just make sure you’re thinking about it strategically. It matters.

10 things to consider when writing your next direct mail appeal (8)

OK time for a #donorlove break! Before you actually write this awesome and inspiring letter, think about the decisions you’ve made. Then think about the donor. Are they synced up, or is there some disconnect? If there’s a disconnect between the donors’ needs and the decisions you’ve made, then you need to stop and reconsider. Are you doing a test that could alienate donors? Be careful! Is the ask you’re making inspiring, or just an urgent need? Maybe you can do better! Is there truly a story in your letter, or is it organizational jargon? STOP. Think about the donor. If you need to make some changes, do. It needs to be about the donor.

10 things to consider when writing your next direct mail appeal (9)

So the letter’s written, the creative’s created, and the package is nearly there. Time to consider variability (if not before this stage). Variability is your chance to speak to different donors within this larger group you’re mailing. Maybe you’re mailing regular donors and you want to acknowledge whether they gave recently, last year, a few years ago, or it’s… *cough*… been a while. Or maybe this is an acquisition mailing and those receiving it are made up of internal people (a.k.a. really inactive donors) AND external people (a.k.a. rental lists). You might want to acknowledge those groups differently. Make sure you consider this before you go any further; the more a donor – or potential donor – feels like you’re speaking to them, the more moved to give they will be.

10 things to consider when writing your next direct mail appeal (10)

And finally – YOU. No, not YOU… the donor YOU. This is the final step. Take out the package, take out your red pen, and “circle the you’s”. This mailing isn’t about us – the fundraiser or the organization. It’s about the donor. It’s meant to speak to them, inspire them, and move them. So review your package and make sure you’re seeing many more “YOU”‘s than “WE”‘s. If you’re not, be prepared to start again. It’s worth it.

~~

So that’s it! 10 things to consider when writing your next direct mail appeal.

If you’re excited about this post, you probably want a chance to win one of these beauties!

Untitled design (18)

That’s right! Your very own red pen, ready to circle the you’s in your next appeal (as per #10)!

How can you win one? In one of two ways:

  1. By subscribing to my newsletter! OR
  2. Sending me an email with a quick message about what you liked about this post.

Do that, and a pen is in the mail!

Thanks for reading!

~~

Sign up for my email list and get a FREE E-BOOK on mid-level donors!

Written by Maeve Strathy

20150326_Strathy_Maeve_02
Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in fundraising for over nine years. Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email

Let’s inspire mid-level donors!

let's inspire mid-level donors

Last week I wrote about mid-level donors and what we’re doing wrong with them.

Mid-level donors are neglected, uninspired, and disengaged.

Why? Because we’re making assumptions about them.

We’re assuming they want to be treated like a major donor — in-person meetings, more targeted asks, and more information to inspire their giving, because they see their gift as an investment.

Or we’re assuming they want to be treated like an annual donor — they’ve been conditioned to give by mail, after all, so let’s just throw in a variable paragraph to distinguish them among our other donors, and maybe put their letter in a square envelope with a real, live stamp on it.

WRONG!

The mid-level donor is neither the major or the annual donor. They’re telling us they’re different, by the ways they behave and the ways they give. They’re saying, “I have capacity to give more, and I want to be more engaged in your organization.”

So how can we capitalize on that?

The mid-level donor is a hybrid, so we need a hybrid program.

Don’t pull the mid-level donor out of the mail. Instead, start to find ways to enhance the content we send them. If they see their gift as an investment, think of how they’d want to be asked. Would we give a corporate sponsor a traditional direct mail appeal? Or would we give them something that feels more customized, that feels more detailed and informative, that has more “behind the scenes” information and feels more exclusive? We’d give them the latter, so let’s do the same for mid-level donors. It doesn’t have to be a customized proposal; it just needs to feel like one.

But let’s also give the mid-level donor new ways to connect with us. Let’s try to arrange in-person meetings with our top mid-level donors. They might not want to meet us in person, or at least they might not want to meet with us every year, but they might jump at the opportunity for some one-on-one attention, so let’s give them that opportunity. What could we find out if we sat across the table from a mid-level donor? How could we inspire their giving in a new and enhanced way?

These are some important learnings on mid-level, but here’s the thing: you need to find out what works for YOU.

So here’s an action item: call a mid-level donor today!

Try calling 15 donors over the next two weeks. Ask them: what inspires you? What engages you? What are we doing to involve you in our organization that you love? What aren’t we doing?

And while you’re at it: THANK THEM. Make them feel how important they are to the organization.

They are.

And if they feel they’re important to you, you’ll continue to be important to them.

Thanks for reading!

~~

Sign up for my email list and get a FREE E-BOOK on mid-level donors!

Written by Maeve Strathy

20150326_Strathy_Maeve_02
Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in fundraising for over nine years. Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email